(Photo by Jill Bock, Staff)
NEW MADRID - It's just like in nature. Roots that run deep, new sprouts that bring continued growth.
At least that is true for the Riverbend Botanical Society. Since forming in February 2007, the group has drawn on the work done by others as they initiate new projects designed to beautify their community.
The Society's President Ella LaValle said interest in the community and its landscape goes back to the 1950s when the local Women's Club planted dogwood trees along New Madrid's streets. "Each spring when those trees blossom, I think of them and thank them for what they did by planting the dogwoods," said LaValle. "We are still enjoying them all these years later."
Although the Women's Club no longer exists, LaValle said there still was an interest in continuing to improve the community's appearance and establishing a garden club. At the organizational meeting, according to LaValle, a number of people showed up and the Riverbend Botanical Society was formed.
Currently the group's 26 members represent a cross section of the community - young and old, male and female. But they all have a common goal, LaValle said.
"For all of us it is our dream just to make our town a little bit better . . . for everyone," she explained. In just more than a year, their projects have blossomed throughout the community.
Main Street now features a series of planters. With funding assistance from Regions Bank and Bank of New Madrid, the plantings reflect the changing seasons.
This summer the membership began a memorial program with a variety of rose called "Knock Out Rose." So far near 60 bushes are planted around town as memorials or to honor those living and are accented by markers provided by Richards Funeral Home noting each of those remembered. Also the society has planted several crape myrtles.
Now, in addition to their monthly meetings, the membership divides the maintenance of six special gardens. The small gardens are located at the Courthouse, in front of the former filling station on Main Street, around the post office and the Riverfront Park and in front of the welcome sign at the south entrance to New Madrid.
Others are picking up on the efforts of the group. Members of the New Madrid Country Club contacted the Riverbend Botanical Society asking about the crape myrtles. Society members volunteered to assist in planting the crape myrtles along one end of the golf course. Individuals are also adding crape myrtles to their home landscaping, LaValle said.
As their plans continue to grow, LaValle is in hopes the Society's membership will too.
"We really encourage anyone to join. It isn't just about planting but about the friendships you form. When you start working together you find out so much more about someone. You learn how caring they are and how they take pride in their town. You get to know them so much better.
"Besides, we have a good time," she said, then added with a laugh, "It is a lot easier to pull weeds when you have someone to talk to."
Joining LaValle at one of the rose gardens, Pam Lloyd explained she has always enjoyed flowers, nature and working in her own yard. Becoming a member of the Riverbend Botanical Society was a way for her to get involved in her community and beautify her city.
She said that while they have started small, "one thing leads to another and we want to dress up the city. I wish more people would be interested and get involved so we can get even more accomplished."
The efforts to beautify are noticed by the locals and even more so by the many visitors to the community, the women agreed.
"A lot of people in New Madrid have no idea of the number of visitors to our town," said LaValle, who also volunteers at the New Madrid Historical Museum. "They would be amazed at the number of people who stop and amazed at the good reviews we get here."
For Kristy Henry, the group is a way for her to meet people in New Madrid and take pride in her new hometown. Also she has used it as an opportunity to teach her 2-year-old son, Ty, about the outdoors. While Ty has helped with planting, she has discovered he is less enthusiastic about weeding.
However, he did find one part exciting. "Bugs!" he shouted with each discovery of an insect in the roses.
The toddler's enthusiasm is another reason the group is continuing their efforts.
"We are the landkeepers here. We want to make this a nicer place for the next generation," LaValle said.
Those who would like to take part in the Riverbend Botanical Society can contact LaValle, the New Madrid Chamber of Commerce or City Hall for more information about meetings. Those who would like to make a donation for a memorial, can send their check and the name of the person to be honored to: Riverbend Botanical Society, in care of the City of New Madrid, P.O. Box 96, New Madrid, MO 63869.